This New Law Is a Game-Changer for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Employees

As Congress raced against the clock last week to pass the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, all eyes were on the bigger issues: things like avoiding a government shutdown, funding for Ukraine, and spending increases for clean energy and the environment. But tucked quietly into the bill were two items that will prove to be a VERY big deal for both pregnant people and nursing parents in the workplace.

These items are the The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act, and their passing means new rights for working parents (and parents-to-be). Surprisingly, both measures were met with sweeping support from both Democrats and Republicans. We love a good “getting along” moment, especially when it comes to policies that will make it easier to maintain the balance between parent and professional.

Let’s break these provisions down and see what they’re all about, shall we?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Anyone who has ever been pregnant and employed at the same time knows that incubating a whole entire human can require a few workplace concessions. You need time off for doctor’s appointments, parental leave, and everything else being a pregnant employee entails. But though Congress outlawed pregnancy discrimination in 1978, pregnant workers still often find themselves denied reasonable accommodations when it comes to pregnancy-related issues — like more frequent breaks, for example, or schedule changes to facilitate appointments (or things like morning sickness).

Even worse, pregnant workers in some industries have not been allowed to alter their usual duties which can be potentially hazardous to expectant parents, like lifting heavy objects, working with chemicals, or entering into dangerous situations as, say, a first responder. No one should ever be forced to choose between their job and the safety and wellbeing of their baby-to-be, but it happens far too often.

“Women now comprise half the workforce, and roughly 85 percent of working women will be pregnant at least once,” says the ACLU. “Census figures show that most workers can and will remain on the job well into their final month of pregnancy. Simply put, pregnancy is a normal condition of employment — and employers should be obligated to treat it that way.”

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